Public liability law protects you if you’re injured or suffer losses in a public or private place, including if you suffer injuries or losses after picking up food poisoning from contaminated food. Many people are aware that they can claim for slips, trips and falls, but far fewer are aware that they can lodge a public liability claim for losses caused by food poisoning.
Can I Claim Compensation for Food Poisoning?
In Australia, there are over 5 million cases of food borne illness each year. Although many people recover within a few days, thousands of people are hospitalised each year from food poisoning in Australia, and food poisoning causes 120 deaths annually.
When you enter a restaurant, café, or visit a street vendor, the place that you buy your food from has a duty of care, which means that they must prepare and cook your food so that it isn’t exposed to contamination and is fit for human consumption.
As a result, if you become sick after eating contaminated food, the vendor may be liable for any injuries or losses you consequently suffer. However, in order to make accident compensation claims against them, you’ll need to prove that whoever made the food or whoever sold you the food was negligent. This negligence takes many forms, but it could be from the way that food was handled and stored, that the vendor failed to work with accredited suppliers, or that the vendor used unsafe cooking methods, for example.
However, if the negligence was caused by you, such as if you left a product unrefrigerated or failed to cook a product in accordance with the instructions, then you do not have grounds to lodge accident compensation claims against a vendor.
Likewise, if you have sickness after visiting a restaurant, but you cannot prove that what you ate there caused the sickness, then you cannot claim compensation as you’ll be unable to prove negligence.
What Should I Do if I Have Food Poisoning?
If you have an illness and you believe it has been caused by ingesting contaminated food, you should:
- Seek medical attention, going to hospital if the symptoms are severe
- Write down the details, including what the symptoms are, when they started, what you last ate and where you ate it
- Keep any food that you haven’t consumed refrigerated so it can be analysed
- Report your sickness to the vendor
- Report the issue to 13 HEALTH on 13 43 25 84
- If you’re concerned about storage, transportation or handling of food, contact Safe Food Production Queensland on 1800 300 815
- If you’re considering claiming compensation, speak to an accident lawyer
How Do I Prove the Restaurant was Negligent?
Proving negligence on the part of a restaurant is often incredibly difficult unless you can point to a pattern of incidents that have all originated from the same location. To successfully claim, you need to prove that the sickness was caused by that vendor and could not have been picked up from a different source.
For this reason, a number of factors must be considered before deciding whether a case of food poisoning can be attributed to a particular vendor:
- The incubation period of the virus, bacteria or parasite responsible for the food poisoning (this can be as little as 2 hours or as long as 70 days)
- Whether you came into contact with other sources of contamination during the incubation period
- If there are other illnesses from the same source at the same time
- Whether the vendor has adequate food handling processes and has adhered to food safety standards
I Have Food Poisoning: Should I Make a Claim?
If you contracted a food borne illness from a vendor, then it’s vital that you report it to the authorities immediately, as there may be a public safety risk.
Whether or not you make a claim is then dependent on whether you can prove that you contracted food poisoning from the location you claim and the severity of your sickness.
A public liability claim for food poisoning allows you to claim for losses or damages, so a judgement is made on how much the food poisoning incident impacted on your quality of life. Every case is different and building a strong case may not be easy if you were only ill for a short period of time, didn’t require hospitalisation or didn’t miss work.
Once you have received medical care for your symptoms, you should speak to an accident lawyer who specialises in public liability claims.
If you believe that you have suffered from food poisoning, have suffered an economic loss and would like to discuss whether you could lodge a public liability claim, then please contact us.